An introduction to Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis in Ghent: Letters to Sofija and a concert by pianist Rokas Zubovas

23 October 2013, Last updated at, 14:54 EEST
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The Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis theme is one of the leitmotifs of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union’s cultural programme in Belgium. Last weekend, the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts, which has been hosting the exhibition M. K. Čiurlionis. Dreams of Lithuania for a whole month, saw another two events dedicated to the wider acquaintance of the great composer and artist's works and personality.

On 19 October, the new film by the British director Robert Mullan, Letters to Sofija (2013), was shown. It tells the love story of M. K. Čiurlionis and Sofija Kymantaitė, a writer and participant of the Lithuanian National Awakening movement and reveals the historical, social, and cultural context of the period.

In the film, the Lithuanian artist's biographical facts, actual historical events, and quotes from M. K. Čiurlionis's literary heritage are entwined with fictional plot lines and characters. Robert Mullan, who participated in the screening, says he was inspired to create the film by the book Letters to Sophia which he had stumbled upon accidentally. The director said he had wanted to interest foreign audiences with this film and help them discover this Lithuanian artist, who is relatively unknown to the rest of the world, and his complex world in which fantasy and reality, art and music, his homeland Lithuania and a beloved woman were of equal importance.

The grand piano parts of the film's soundtrack were performed live by pianist Zubovas, the great-grandson of M. K. Čiurlionis, who was also the main star of the film.

Letters to Sofija will be shown in the museum's auditorium on 23 and 30 October, 6, 13, 20, and 27 November, and 4 and 11 December at 3pm. Free admission.

On 20 October, pianists Zubovas and Sonata Zubovienė arranged a concert-lecture in the most spectacular hall of the M. K. Čiurlionis. Dreams of Lithuania exhibition, where an installation of wood and light has created the image of a mystical Lithuanian forest. Thoughtfully selected pieces with introductory commentaries enabled the listeners to follow the evolution of Čiurlionis's composition technique along with its aesthetics. Preludes based on Lithuanian folk songs, the symphonic poem In the Forest (1901) arranged for four hands, the cycle of small sceneries The Sea (1908), variations on the Sefaa Esec theme, (1904) and four Druskininkai preludes (1901–1909) were played. The latter vividly revealed the transition from the Romantic tradition to innovative music in which the composer abandoned rhythmic, melodic, and harmonious clichés.

For the encore Zubovas played the mazurka and M. K. Čiurlionis’s first attempt at composing and then responded to the abundant commentaries and questions of the audience.

Both events were initiated and organized by the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts in cooperation with the Lithuanian Permanent Representation to the EU.

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